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Buddhist deity: Kangiten

By Gaurav Manandhar at
Buddhist deity: Kangiten

Buddhist deity: Kangiten

Kangiten or God of Bliss is a god in Shingon and Tendai schools of Japanese Buddhism. He is considered to be the Japanese Buddhist version of the Hindu god, Ganesha. He is also sometimes identified as the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara.Kangiten is also popularly known by the following names: Kankiten, Shoten, Daishoten, Daisho Kangiten, Temson, Kangi JIzaiten, Shodensama, Vinayakaten, Binayakaten, Ganapati, and Zobiten.

Even though Kangiten is depicted as Hindu god Ganesha, his most popular aspect is the Dual Kangiten or the Embracing Kangiten depicted as an elephant-headed male-female human couple standing in an embrace.

Legends of Buddhist deity, Kangiten

There are various legends of Kangiten but the most famous ones are as follows:

King of Marakeira loves to have beef and radishes. It is believed that he ate all the available beef and radishes. At a certain period, these became rare. Hence to fulfill his appetite, he started to feast on human corpses and finally on living beings. He then turned into the great demon king Kangiten. With fear, the locals began to pray Bodhisattvas Avalokiteshvara. He then took the form of female Kangiten and seduced him. Female Kangiten filled the male one with joy. Thus, he in union with her became the Dual Kangiten.

Another legend that shares his story is- Zaijizai who is the consort of Maheshvara. They had a son named a Shoten. He was very evil and had a violent nature. So he was banished from heaven. With the objective to turn him into good, Gundari (kundali) turned into a terrible demoness. She married to Shoten, then lead him to good ways.

Another version explains the Kangiten was the evil daughter of Mahaeshvara who was exiled from the heaven. She then took refuge at Mt. Binayak where he met fellow male Vinayaka. Later she married Vinayaka which resulted in the Dual Kangiten icon.

Iconography of Buddhist deity, Kangiten

Kangiten is often depicted as an elephant-headed male and female pair, embracing each other while in standing position. The female one wears a crown, patched monk's robe and a red surplice. Her trunk and tusks are somewhat short and have a complexion of white. It is seen that she wears a loose dress.

The male one wears a black cloth which is tight in comparison to female one over his shoulder and has long trunk and tusks. The complexion is reddish brown.

While depicting the female one rests her feet on the feet of male one while the male rests his head on her shoulder. Both of them gaze into each other's eyes, smiling intently which forms a Shoten Fondly Smiling.

Sometimes the deities is also portrayed in Embracing Shoten Looking Over the Shoulder, the couple looks over each other's shoulders. This iconography means the unity of opposites. Even though they are separate figures contrasting iconographies and genders, they both share the same name.

Sometimes Shoten may also be depicted as male alone. When Kangiten is depicted alone, he is portrayed as elephant-headed along with four arms, holding a radish and a sweet. Sometimes he is depicted holding a mace, a sword, a cup of ambrosia or have two of his front arms folded. When the deity is depicted in six arms, he usually carries a knife, a fruit bowl, a discus in his left hands and a club, a noose and his broken tusk in his right.

When Kangiten is depicted in two most important Shingon mandalas, he is depicted in more than one figures. He usually carries emblems such as radish and axe and is seated on lotus pedestals (padmasana), the sign of divinity.

In some cases, Kangiten is also depicted by symbolic syllable called shuji or bija or by other symbols.

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